Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fruit Pops

We are swimming in gorgeous fruit, with backyard harvests of raspberries and sour cherries, plus pretty little strawberries from our CSA. Unfortunately, summer fruits like that don't keep very well, so fruit popsicles (or ice lollies - don't you love that term?) have been my go-to way to use up little bits of leftover fruit.

Ben quickly figured out where I kept the popsicles. Our freezer is below our fridge, so easy access for the little guy! This afternoon, after finishing one off while sitting on the back porch, he ran right back in to the freezer for another. And another. Since I knew there was good stuff in them with real fruit, I didn't mind. Even Dad got in on the popsicle action.

Homemade popsicles don't have to be complicated. You can just freeze some grape juice and ta-da! Grape popsicles. Take stock of your juices, fruits, ice creams, syrups, see what you want to use up and have fun with it. I happened to have some vanilla ice cream, hence the recipes you see below, but yogurt would've been a more nutritious choice. I hope you think of these recipes more as guidelines. If you want more popsicle ideas, just click here.

Creamsicle Pops
Vanilla ice cream, softened
Frozen orange juice concentrate

Mix 2 parts ice cream for every 1 part orange juice concentrate. Freeze in popsicle mold of choice and enjoy!

Berry Pops
Leftover berries
Sugar to taste (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, softened

In a saucepan, make a berry liquid by mixing berries and the optional sugar. Cook it down to a liquid over medium high heat, gently squishing the berries and stirring constantly so you get a pot of berry juice. At this point, you can strain out the seeds through a cheesecloth if you want. Mix berry juice with softened ice cream, pour into popsicle molds, freeze and enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Green Juice

I drank this. Before you click away in horror, please let me explain...

Remember this guy? The Juiceman? Yeah, I got his juicer. $15 on BismanOnline (our town is weird in that we don't use Craigslist much). When I picked it up, the lady told me her dad used it to juice grapes for wine. It reeked of cigarette smoke and looked dingy, but hey, it was $15. I said thanks much, took it home, scrubbed it down, and proceeded to let it hibernate in my kitchen cupboard for the next month.

Then this weekend, on a whim, I watched Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead on Netflix. It's basically one big long infomercial for juicing (see the trailer here), but I now had a juicer and a bunch of veggies in my fridge thanks to the miracle of our CSA share, so I thought it was time to dust off the Juiceman and see what he could do.

A long time ago I read somewhere that Goldie Hawn drinks green juice every morning. As a die-hard Overboard fan, that stuck with me. I wanted to do that, too. Then maybe a muscular rough-around-the-edges guy wearing plaid would come around and kidnap me and we'd have a house full of rambunctious little boys...

Oh yeah, I guess we're well on our way then.

So here's what I pulled out of the fridge.

Kale, carrots, cucumber, and a beet. I guarantee you all these items were completely foreign to my particular juicer. It was a veggie virgin. I cut the cucumber and beets into chunks, balled up the leaves of kale like it said to do in the instruction manual, and started juicing.

And ta-da!  There's the juice. I added a straw to make it look more appealing - did it work? Admittedly, my $15 Juiceman isn't a great juicer. It didn't get very much juice out of the kale and some of the thinner bits of carrots came out the pulp shoot unprocessed, but it was enough to give me the idea of what juicing is all about before I go invest $300 and precious counter space for a super-duper juicer.

I've never been so reluctant to taste something in my life. I've taken mezcal shots with a worm in the bottom of the glass faster than I took my first sip of this juice. The mezcal shot tasted like I had just licked an ashtray. The juice...well, it was better than the mezcal, but not by much.

I could definitely taste each vegetable, and since I don't like cucumbers nor beets, the deck was stacked against me. It was like V8 without the salt or tomato. Or, better said, like a big glass of liquified grass and dirt. I keep ice cubes of lemon juice in my freezer, so I popped one in and it pepped it up a little. I mixed a little bit with water and found it was more chugable that way, so I topped off my green juice with water, gave it a stir, figured it's not going to get any more palatable, and started chugging. It took eight gulps. I counted.

But you know what? I felt pretty good afterwards. I didn't achieve any miraculous lightness of being or start walking on water, but it kicked off a pretty good day. I realize now that it's pretty hard-core to start off juicing with just vegetables. Adding an apple to the mix would've helped tremendously. But much like caviar, expensive cheese, and Busch Light, it's an acquired taste and I'm willing to give the Juiceman a spin again soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Morning in July

5:59 am - Alarm goes off.

5:59:10 am - Snooze button. Husband pops out of bed to work out.  Hmph. Overachiever. 

6:07 am - Alarm goes off. Decent song. One foot, two feet on the floor. S-t-r-e-t-c-h.

6:10 am - Brush teeth. Shower. Make-up. Clothes. (Shh. Baby still sleeping.)

6:30 am - Figure the hair can air dry. Grab a bowl and head out to pick raspberries in the backyard garden for my morning yogurt.

6:35 am - Pick lots and lots of raspberries.  Figure it's better me picking them than letting the birds get at 'em.

6:45 am - Sweet summer raspberry breakfast bliss. Imagine that someday I might harvest enough raspberries to put up a few pints of jam, but realize my fingers won't stop dipping into the raspberry bowl. Resign myself to the fact that I'm a fresh raspberry glutton and decide to relish and savor this annual bounty.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spinach and Feta Dip

You know when you have half a bag of spinach in your fridge and you keep sniffing it, thinking its going to turn any day, knowing you should use it up, but you don't really feel like eating a raw spinach salad and you don't know what else to do with it and you're kinda in a snacky mood? That's when you make this dip.

This dip is one of many Jessica Seinfeld tactics I've had to pull lately to get my kid to eat his daily veggies (I wonder what it's like to be Jessica Seinfeld and have your name associated with prideful deception of innocent children?).  It appears that the days of joyously watching Ben eat Brussels sprouts with gusto are over. Blah blah serenity parenting blah, I know in the long run it doesn't really matter that my kid ate fruit snacks and chocolate milk for dinner instead of the kale and white bean soup I so lovingly prepared, but I can't help it. The tiger mom in me growls when my baby skips his greens. They've invented gummy vitamins and lemon-flavored fish oil, but if I want my kid to eat real fresh food, sometimes I gotta get sneaky.

Surprise surprise, not only did my little guy lap this up, but even my husband liked it.  "This is good!" he says, as if shocked that a bowl of green dip could be tasty. But if you ever come over for drinks and snacks, be warned: Ben's a double-dipper. Actually, he just used the same cracker, licking the dip off his Triscuit and redipping. I didn't care. My baby was eating spinach, and for this I was grateful.

Spinach and Feta Dip
Adapted from The New American Plate by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Easy-peasy, just a spin in the food processor and it's done. 

4 c. stemmed fresh spinach, loosely packed
1/2 c. feta crumbles (about 2 oz)
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. mayo
2 tsp. prepared white horseradish
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper

In a food processor, finely chop the spinach. Add the feta and scallions. Process until well blended. Add the mayo, horseradish, and lemon juice and process to blend until smooth. Add the dill and process for another 15 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brazilian Seafood Stew with Walleye and Shrimp

Summertime always gets a little veggie heavy around here. The garden (which I haven't weeded in two weeks, thanks for the reminder) is still producing mounds of lettuce and our CSA share has been a pure joy in abundance and variety.

However, much to the relief of my husband, we haven't gone completely vegetarian. To the contrary, we've been eatin' good in the neighborhood, with grillfests of ribs, brats, burgers and steaks being a summer rituals with our friends and family. And what would summer be without piles of freshly-caught walleye?

It's been a tough summer for fishermen in Bismarck-Mandan. The river is practically inaccessible with most nearby docks flooded, and the fast current has dredged out a lot of the good fishing holes, so every weekend the highways fill with trucks hauling boats out to nearby lakes or the Big Water known as Lake Sakakawea (pronounced Sah-kah-kah-WEE-ah here...probably not how Sacajawea herself would've pronounced it, I know). My in-laws live on an arm of the lake known as Van Hook, and man, hubby has brought in some good catches, limiting out with five fish most days.

We stock our freezer with most of the catch, but I always set aside some fresh walleye for dinner. I love fried fish, but this stew was a nice change of pace. I adore anything with coconut milk and cilantro, and frankly you could easily make this into more of a thai dish with a big spoonful of curry paste mixed in when you add the coconut milk. In fact, next time I whip this up, that's what I plan on doing. As long as our luck reeling in those walleye holds out, of course.

Brazilian Seafood Stew with Walleye and Shrimp
Adapted from The New American Plate cookbook, which is a good, super-healthy cookbook - almost too healthy. I cranked up the fat content a bit. Reduced fat coconut milk is not my friend. 

1 lb. walleye fillets, cut into 1" chunks
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 sweet peppers, chopped (green, red, orange, yellow - pick your fav colors)
1 serrano chile, seeded and diced (or leave some of the seeds if you like it hot)
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
1 can (14.5 oz) coconut milk
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Handful of chives or green onions, chopped
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk together 2 Tbls olive oil, the lime juice, and the minced garlic. Add fish, coating on all sides. Let stand for 15 mins.

In a large pot, heat 2 Tbls. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, chile, and mashed garlic. Saute for 5 mins, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Mix in tomatoes with juice, coconut milk, shrimp, fish and marinade. Bring liquid to a simmer and cook gently for 5-7 mins, until fish and shrimp are opaque in center. Don't overcook. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle generously with cilantro and chives, and serve with rice and extra lime wedges.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mixed Greens with Cumin and Paprika

Our CSA share with Riverbound Farm has been a source of vegetable abundance. Almost too abundant. Today's pick-up included radishes, fennel, rainbow chard, lettuce, gorgeous baby beets, peas, spring onions, and a healthy dose of spinach. An embarrassment of Vitamin A riches. However, my vegetable treasure turned into a Rubix's cube when I had to figure out how to fit in all in my modest refrigerator.

That's my fridge, my chocolate almond milk indulgence front and center within easy, immediate grasp; the large jar of my husband's pickled herring relegated to the back. I looked from my fridge to my counter brimming with vegetable matter and back to my fridge.

It wasn't going to work. Something had to give.

My first instinct was to toss the herring. But no, I restrained myself and found other options. The fennel fronds were the first to get chopped off and thrown into the compost heap, leaving those precious (and easy-to-store) bulbs.  Next went the radish leaves, condensing the bunch down to a small bowl of red rubies filled with cold water. Still, I needed more room and I was getting hungry...greens for dinner it is!

I rarely see cooked greens in the Midwest. Down south, of course, you can't go to a bbq shack without getting a big helping of collard greens, but around here, greens are almost exclusively seen in salads or shredded into a cheezy spinach dip appetizer at Applebee's. I rarely see creamed spinach served with steak or kale in any form. I've actually been asked by grocery store clerks and my own mother what to do with kale. It's too bad, because frankly, cooked greens can be really, really tasty.

I chopped the leaves of the beets and washed them in the sink along with a big bunch of rainbow chard. I knew I wanted to cook down the greens, but I needed some tips on how to give them some kick, so I grabbed my quickly-becoming-essential cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, truly an epic work in the culinary vegetable world. I found this simple recipe and cooked down those voluminous greens to a manageable bowlful of simple deliciousness. My friend Jenny came over and we enjoyed it with barley, feta, and Kalamata olives. Not only did we get a lovely meal out of those greens, but this recipe left me with just enough room for leftovers and the rest of my veggies in my tiny happy fridge.

And yes, the herring are still there too. You're welcome, honey.

Mixed Greens with Cumin and Paprika

12 cups mixed greens - kale, chard or beet, broccoli rabe, mustard, etc
4 large garlic cloves
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 T olive oil
2 t paprika
2 t ground cumin
Olives, lemon wedges and feta for garnish

Discard any inedible parts of the greens, such as kale stems and tough ribs. Set leaves in a steamer - tougher ones on the bottom, the most tender on top - and cook until tender, or boil each type separately in salted water, then drain. Chop into pieces about 1 inch square.

Pound the garlic with 1/2 tsp salt in a mortar until smooth, then work in the parsley and cilantro and pound them briefly to release their flavors.

Warm the oil with the paprika and cumin in a wide skillet over medium heat until they release their fragrances. Don't let them burn. Stir in the garlic, then add the greeens and cook until any extra moisture has evaporated. Taste for salt. Pile into a dish and garnish with olives, lemon and feta.